Royals fall short in MIAC championship

A cold shooting day ends the Bethel playoff run, but not gratitude for the game.

A cold shooting day ends the Bethel playoff run, but not gratitude for the game.

By Jared Martinson 

After a valiant and somewhat unexpected playoff run, the Bethel University men’s basketball team lost to Augsburg University in the MIAC championship game. With a full Robertson Center crowd in attendance for the contest on Sunday afternoon, Bethel hung tight with the Auggies until a barrage of three-pointers helped Augsburg pull away by a final score of 81-69.

Sophomore Jack Jenson led the way in the box score for Bethel, tallying 16 points, six rebounds and seven assists. Sophomore Granger Kingland and junior Derek Magnuson added 14 points apiece as well.

A tough shooting day for the Royals forced them to fight a double-digit deficit throughout the second half. Bethel shot just 31 percent from downtown in the game, compared to Augsburg’s 50 percent. Auggie senior forward Collin Olmscheid scored 36 points to pace the victors.

Bethel came into the MIAC playoffs as the third seed. They overcame an 11-point Carleton College lead in the second half to defeat the Knights 71-66 on Wednesday. Then they traveled to Northfield on Friday night and took care of a very hot second-seeded St. Olaf squad 79-57, leading into Sunday’s title tilt against Augsburg.

Though the men’s basketball season came to a frustrating close, a couple items stand out. This was the second consecutive year that Bethel hosted the conference championship game. Before 2017, the Royals had never hosted a game of such stakes. The Robertson Center and all of campus was once again filled to the brim with excitement all weekend in anticipation for the big game.

Secondly, there is cause for celebration, specifically of the senior players who had the chance to finish their illustrious careers on their home floor. The experience, leadership and wit of Bridgeport Tusler, Tim Hanson, Andrew Fort and Riley Dearring will be deeply missed by the Bethel program and community.

When asked what this group of guys and this sport means to him, Tusler’s response was simple but powerful. “It’s not a team, these are my brothers,” he said. “And there’s more to life than basketball, but there’s more to basketball than basketball.”

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